As the Champions League gears up for a return this week the disadvantage of playing in the all-action, non-stop Premier League has again come into focus.
Yes the division is the world’s richest and so club’s can gather together large, expensively assembled squads but those players have just come through a gruelling winter schedule that included games right through the Christmas and New Year period.
But many teams on the continent – such as Serie A, La Liga or Bundesliga clubs – enjoyed a winter break over that period, meaning the players are fit, fresh and firing ahead of the resumption of Europe’s Premier competition.
For Spurs, whose performances in this year’s tournament have been one of the highlights, they are counting the cost of such a busy schedule as they prepare for their first knock-out round clash with AC Milan.
The headline absentee is Gareth Bale, who since terrorising Inter Milan in both of their group games has been the name on everybody’s lips in Italy. He was the player Milan genuinely feared so his absence with a back injury will be a massive boost to them. Anyone thinking about putting a Champions League bet on Spurs will probably want to think again.
The Welshman won’t get bored sat in the treatment room back in North London though as he will have plenty of team-mates to keep him company.
Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King and Younes Kabou are all long-term absentees. Peter Crouch and Luka Modric are doubts, Jermaine Jenas is suspended and Rafael van der Vaart looks set to play only half-fit following a calf injury.
Now, not all injuries can be attributed to fatigue – they are part and parcel of the game and can occur at any time. But there is no doubt that the hectic winter schedule plays some apart in the increasing casualty lists – something also brought up after every limp England failure at a major international tournament.
But given the disproportionate amount of money and power the Champions League – and their regular participants – hold, should their progress in the competition be stunted by injuries on a regular basis the calls for a winter break would be more louder and effective than the FA’s pleas for one ever will be, highlighting the competition’s place -rightly or wrongly – at the top of the European game.